The General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Edward Kareweh, believes that the issue of fertilizer smuggling in Ghana can only be dealt with effectively if the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has adequate backing from the presidency as well as the various security agencies.
His remark follows the growing incidents of fertilizer smuggling in the country.
With the government’s keen interest in developing the country’s agricultural sector, it has over the years developed policies in this regard, including supplying farmers with subsidized fertilizer.
However, this policy has been met with some challenges, the biggest of all being smuggling of the commodity.
The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto in February 2021 said government had restricted the movement of Planting for Food and Jobs subsidized fertilizers to 20 districts within 5 regions to curtail smuggling into neighbouring countries.
The regions affected by the directive included Upper East (6 districts), Upper West (6 districts), Northern Region (2 districts), North East (1 district) and Volta Region (5 districts).
The afore-mentioned areas are known to indulge in smuggling and trading commodities along the border of neighbouring countries.
In 2020, the Planting for Food and Jobs Secretariat under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture warned that the programme risks collapsing if concerted efforts are not made to stop the smuggling of government-subsidized fertilizer.
According to the Secretariat, Ghana lost a whopping GHS120 million from unaccounted for fertilizer, diversion of coupons and fertilizer smuggling in the 2017 and 2018 planting seasons.
In an interview with Citi Business News, Mr. Kareweh said adequate backing for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture as well as stricter punishments for culprits found smuggling fertilizer must be enforced in order to deal with the situation.
“There is general lack of discipline within our governance system and that has also affected government delivery of services and support to target groups. Diversion of subsidized fertilizer and subsidized seeds are ongoing. We have said that we have arrested some people, and we don’t know what has happened to them, whether they have been punished and whether that has been made known to the public so that people will know that they cannot get away with it”.
“The systems that we have used in the past have not worked well. I think that the matter is beyond the ministry alone, they do not have the capacity to fight this very strong system of smuggling. What the ministry can do and for that matter government is to take stringent measures and make sure that the security agencies work very well to stop this”.